Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

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Ask Boswell 7/8/13 Edition

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Your Nats are on a little roll; they swept the Padres and have clawed their way to a mighty 4 games above .500 before looking downright weak so far in Philly. What’s the temperature of Tom Boswell‘s chat this week?  Lets find out?

As always, I write the answer here before reading Boswell’s, and edit questions for clarity/conciseness.

Q: Is this the turnaround we’ve all been waiting for?

A: Well, at the risk of being a complete hypocrite (as a couple of my friends accuse me of doing, after basically writing off the team when they were still mired at .500 at the end of June), I’ll stick with “we’re not out of the woods yet.”   After winning 4 straight and sweeping the hapless Padres in Washington, we travel to Philadelphia for a mid-week 4-game set where I only give the Nats the clear starting pitcher advantage in one of the four games.

And sure enough, Dan Haren gave up 2 early runs to set the tone and the Nats were efficiently shut down by former Ace John Lannan in dropping the first game 3-2 while getting just one run in 8 innings against Cole Hamels in last night’s loss.  It would not surprise me in the least to see the Nats lose 3 of 4 in Philly (the mano-y-mano Cliff Lee-Gio Gonzalez showdown tonight favors the Phillies, then the Jordan Zimmerman-Kyle Kendrick matchup that favors Washington on paper .. but Zimmermann has been leaking runs lately and only has 4 quality starts in his last 8 outings).  Boswell says that “baseball hates a straight line,” I suppose implying that the Nats can get a winning streak together and get back in.

Q: Why are the Nats ownership pushing out Johnson?

A: Asked and Answered in a previous chat.  See the Davey Johnson question from the 7/1/13 version of this post.  Boswell indeed repeats his 7/1 answer today.

Q: Who gets demoted to make way for Scott Hairston?

A: The obvious and easy answer is (and was) Tyler Moore, the only real expendable hitter left on the active roster.  Expendible meaning he wasn’t a vet, wasn’t out of options, and isn’t hitting .300 playing every day.  (This move has already happened by the publication of this post, so it isn’t very timely).  Boswell points out that not only is Moore going to AAA, but there’s literally no room for him NEXT year since Scott Hairston is signed through 2014.  Oops.  Moore is now officially trade bait.

Q: Why do Baseball fields continue to be irregularly shaped?

A: Anachronism.  Its the only thing I can think of.   Boswell sort of agrees.

Q: Why havn’t we pulled the plug on Dan Haren?

A: I’ll give you $13M reasons why.  But, we’re getting close.  If the Nats are really going after Matt Garza then Haren’s days are numbered.  Thank baseball for guaranteed contracts, eh?   Boswell proposes a crazy trade proposal: Detwiler, Espinosa, Moore and Giolito for David Price, who he constantly mentions as being a guy he’d love to see acquired.  I don’t see it; Tampa Bay is notoriously difficult to deal with on the trade market and this trade offer basically collects three under-performing MLBers and an injured rookie for one of the 15 best arms in the game.  As David Schoenfield put it in his ESPN chat yesterday, this is a ridiculous trade offer from a homer-fan in Boswell.  

For what its worth, later on in the chat someone also pokes disbelief at this trade proposal.  Boswell defends the trade more on the years-of-control and by comparing Price to the Gio Gonzalez deal.

Q: Why did the Nats acquire Hairston in the first place?

A: Clearly, they felt like they needed better bench hitters.  And, they got him.  Boswell notes his great lefty splits.

Q: Will the Nats re-align their rotation post All-Star Break?

A: Probably; they did minor tweaks last year.  Unless it results in some ridiculous layoff, you’d have to think they’re going back to the opening day 1-2-3-4-5.  Boswell says nobody knows.

Q: According to high placed sources, Cliff Lee has informed the Phillies he’ll waive his no trade clause for the Nationals. Will the price be to high?

A: Ugh.  Just go look at Cliff Lee‘s contract.  He’s owed more than $75M AFTER this season (I’m counting the 2016 option that seems very likely to vest).  He turns 35 in August.  That’s an awful lot of money to be going to a 38 year old guy.  And it’d take a massive haul of our thinned farm system to get him, since the Phillies would be full bore into rebuilding mode if they moved Lee.  Just don’t see it.   Yes Lee has been great this year, but the fall-off for guys in their mid 30s can be steep.  Boswell points out similar facts.

Q: MLB seems to be making a special effort to promote Puig for the final spot, three tweets about him yesterday; none about the other four NL candidates. If they want him that badly why not institute a next-to-last spot for whoever they want to pick for marketing purposes?

A: Others have proposed reserving an all-star spot for an “Up and coming” player who isn’t on the ballot and thus has little chance of making it.  That makes sense to me.  MLB is doing their best to capture the Yasiel Puig-mania, and good for them to finally do some aggressive marketing of their marketable stars.  Boswell says Puig is awesome and then goes off on a tangent.

Q: Is Rafael Soriano turning into Don “fullpack” Stanhouse for Davey Johnson?

A: Rafael Soriano‘s numbers are fine; 2.19 ERA, converted 21 of 24 save opportunities.  He gives up a hit an inning; not ideal for a closer but not out of the realm of crazy.    I don’t get THAT nervous when he comes into games.   Boswell says Soriano is underrated.

Q: Alex Rodriguez is playing single A ball. Are the Yankees sending him a message?

A: Did the Nats “send a message” to Bryce Harper by sending him to Potomac (A-Ball) to rehab?   MLBers have to play re-hab ball somewhere;  dumb question inspired by the media sensationalism that perpetually surrounds Alex Rodriguez.  Boswell pokes fun at the Yankees, Brian Cashman‘s STFU tweet and the whole situation with A-Rod in general.

Q: Do the Nationals over-play music and promotions at games?

A: The question comes from someone who clearly comes across as a whiny “I liked it in the old days when we just had an organ at baseball games” type.  I’ve never gotten that impression at Nats games.  If you want to *really* see what a fan experience is like with near perpetual distractions and music, just head on over to the Verizon Center and take in a Wizards games.  They play 95 decibel music DURING PLAY.  Its just crazy.  Boswell says that while the PA is too loud, the Nats park is relatively devoid of ads and clutter.  

Q: Trade proposal: Clippard and Storen for Cliff Lee

A: Two non-closers for a MLB Ace.  And one (Drew Storen) who is really struggling this year.  Yea right.   If you’re going to propose trades, make them at least believable.   boswell falls back on intra-division, CYA blocking reasons for not considering this trade.

Q: Should we prevent Harper from participating in the Home-Run Derby due to injury concerns?

A: Should we block Harper from taking batting practice due to injury concerns?  Another ridiculous question.  The Home Run Derby is just BP with the cameras on.   Boswell says its more likely to mess up h is stroke; whatever.  Everything I’ve read about Harper’s BP sessions show that he’s basically trying to hit it to the beer stands on every pitch.

Q: Does Storen need a change of scenery?

A: Great question; the full text of the question answers things pretty well; Storen has gone from closer to 7th inning Ryan Mattheus replacement in less than a half a season.  If traded and given another shot, you have to think he’d re-flourish as a closer.  Mike Rizzo has traded closer-quality guys to teams that covet them (see the Matt Capps deal) so maybe this could be in the cards.  I’d always trade in a closer for a position player, since you can “make” closers so easily.  Look at what Ian Krol is doing; all he’s done since arriving as an unheralded AA-reliever is just shut people down; I’ll bet he would make an excellent closer.    Boswell says the team wants Storen around for the long haul.

Q: Trade idea: Danny Espinosa for Ervin Santana?

A: Hmm.  #2 starter with a 2.93 ERA for a team trying to make the playoffs for …. an AAA infielder who hit .158 this year.  AND the questioner thinks the Royals would throw in a prospect to make it work!  Talk about over-valuing your own assets.  There’s a difference between potential talent and realized talent; Espinosa completely encapsulates the difference.  Yes we know that he’s a plus-plus defender who can hit 20 bombs from the shortstop position.  But he has regressed year to year at the plate and now will be lucky to play in the majors again before the Sept 1st callup.  Why would the Royals possibly do this deal?   Thank god this is just a local chat and not one of these national ESPN chats where Nats fans in general would be lampooned for trade ideas like this.  Boswell doesn’t really even give an opinion on this one.

 

Earl Weaver Passes

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Weaver during one of his 96 career ejections. photo unknown via examiner.com

A quick post to note the passing Earl Weaver, long-time Orioles manager and one of the great characters in the game.  Weaver passed away over the weekend at the age of 82.

The tagline of this blog (located at the top left of the page) has always been an Earl Weaver quote related to pitching:

“… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.”

Weaver may have been remembered for his antics on the field and legendary rages against umpires, but he was also a pitching strategy pioneer.  As is noted in the link above, Weaver was one of the first managers to track pitcher-hitter matchups as a method of managing his bullpen.  He may have advocated the 3-run homer as the best offensive strategy, but he definitely advanced pitching strategy during his career.

Former Oriole Ken Dixon is a player in the local DCMSBL league and pitched for Weaver in the mid 80s.  We asked him once at a golf event what his favorite memory of Weaver was and he told the following story (paraphrased from memory): Dixon said he was pitching in a game one day and was really struggling.  Weaver was fuming at him in between innings, and when he got into another jam Weaver came out to the mound to (as Dixon thought) remove him from the game.  Instead, Weaver arrived at the mound and was so furious with the situation he just cursed and carried on like a crazy uncle, never really talking directly to Dixon.  Eventually, he left the mound without really saying anything of substance to Dixon (or taking him out).

Written by Todd Boss

January 20th, 2013 at 5:38 pm

400th Post at nationalsarmrace.com

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Happy 400th post!

This post, if I trust my WordPress engine to tell me the right number of published articles, we have hit 400 posts in the history of this blog.

Here’s some useless information on the history of this blog and the nature of the posts.

Posts by year:

  • 2010: 82
  • 2011: 226
  • 2012: 92 (as of today)

I really got into the blog in 2011, and the post count was way up for rotation reviews of both major and minor leagues.  A new job curtailed my time immensely this year, though I had a good bit of time the last couple of months to post pretty regularly.

Milestone Posts

Other Random Blog milestones

  • 17th post: 8/9/10 “2011 Rotation Competition” First post where I started the formatting theme of bolding a proper name the first time it appears in a post.  I started this to highlight those players who I was specifically talking about.
  • 55th post: 10/20/10: “Contract Value for FA Starting Pitchers: The Cliff Lee Lesson to-be” First post where I started incorporating pictures into the blog posts.  I got the idea from Mark Zuckerman‘s blog, where he always uses a single picture at the top of each blog post.  I generally use images.google.com to find the images and then attempt to give proper photo credit.  Coincidentally, at some point in the past I did a ton of research on the use of photos on the internet and had a discussion on the subject (in the comments section of this May 2011 post).
  • 221st post:  8/25/11, “My Answers to Boswell’s Chat Questions 8/22/11 edition.”  This was the earliest post that I regularly started using “tags” for player names.  I started doing this after turning on the “tag cloud” along the right hand side.  The tags also serve as a nice searching method for a particular player.  (I’ve since gone through some effort to “tag” the posts prior to this one but am not entirely caught up to the history of the blog).
  • 243rd post: 9/25/11, “New Theme!”  I changed the look and feel of the blog from an out-of-the-box WordPress theme to a custom theme.  I was doing this primarily to figure out a way to get the blog slogan (the Earl Weaver quote at the top) to be more visible.

Count of posts by category: (note that these will add up to greater than 400 since some posts get multiple categories):

Category # of Posts
30 for 30 7
Baseball in General 117
Chat/Mailbag responses 37
College/CWS 1
Draft 16
Majors Pitching 142
Minor League Pitching 65
Minor League Rotation Reviews 17
Nats in General 154
Nats Rotation Reviews 28
Non-Baseball 16
Uncategorized 0
Weekly News 22

Top 10 player names mentioned (since I started typing them in as Tags; this is definitely weighted more towards the the past season than earlier, as catching up hundreds of posts with updated tags is not an effort worth finishing frankly)

  1. Stephen Strasburg: 73 mentions
  2. Ross Detwiler: 63
  3. Mike Rizzo: 58
  4. Jordan Zimmermann: 56
  5. John Lannan: 55
  6. Chien-Ming Wang: 49
  7. Bryce Harper: 48
  8. Gio Gonzalez: 44
  9. Jayson Werth: 42
  10. Brad Peacock; 38

Peacock gets a ton of mentions, since his call-up in 2011 and his subsequent excellent starts merited a ton of thought as to his future with the organization.  As we now know, he was traded away and struggled in 2012.  So far, it looks like we traded high.

#1 item I wish I still had time to do:

  • The rotational reviews, especially in the minor leagues.  I maintained these for the first half of 2011, but a vacation in July of 2011 left me a couple weeks behind and I just never could catch up.  I didn’t even attempt to try these for 2012.  Its unfortunate; the whole reason I started this blog was to study and be up on the minor league pitching, especially the starters.  I feel, and still feel, that developing quality starting pitching is the most important aspect of the farm system, and that a successful pre-arbitration pitcher is the most valuable commodity in the sport.  Wins on the free agent market are really expensive (if you get a win per $1M of FA dollars spent, you’re doing pretty well, as we saw with the $11M we gave Edwin Jackson for his 10 wins this year).

Other things I’d love to do a better job of doing:

  • The “Tom Boswell chat” responses.  I love doing those and seeing if I agree with Boswell’s take.  Same with the Bill Ladson mailbag posts, but I don’t recall him doing one of these in quite a while.
  • Reviews of pitching performances; this requires the time to sit down each night and watch the games … I love baseball, but I just cannot commit that kind of time.  I see that Ladson just released one, so I’ll get on that straight-away.

#1 item I wish I could incorporate: I’d love to do interviews of pitching coaches and pitchers at the various levels to talk about pitching strategy, mechanics and whatnot.  I briefly pursued getting a Nats press pass but got the impression that the team is less inclined to hand out press passes to blogs such as mine (which provide a heavy amount of opinion and commentary) versus blogs like Federal Baseball and DC Pro Sports Report (which act more like beat reporters and focus on doing pre-game and post-game reports).  Fair enough.

#1 technical issue I would like to change: I honestly have no idea how many people read this blog; I host the blog myself and have struggled to get the WordPress engine to work properly.  Thus it is out of date and a lot of plug-ins that would allow for simple things like counters and tracking are unavailable to me.  If anyone has a good WordPress hosting solution i’d be all ears.

I do know that I get nearly 100% of the traffic to the site via clicks from Mark Zuckerman’s blog, where i’m listed in his blog-roll and readers get to see when I have new content.  I’d like to get represented on the other major media outlet blogs at the Washington Post and Washington Times.  That would really help my readership too.

Thanks for reading!

Written by Todd Boss

October 23rd, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Ask Boswell 11/28/11 edition

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Are the 2012 Nats going to be an Earl Weaver-esque team? Photo unknown via cnnsi.com

Happy belated Thanksgiving.  The Redskin’s win and Capital’s coach firing probably will dominate the chat, but here’s Tom Boswellweekly Monday chat on 11/28/11.  Of the baseball questions he took, here’s how I’d have answered them.

As always, questions are edited for clarity and I write my own answer prior to reading his.

Q: Boz, I think the 2012 Nats are going to make Earl Weaver proud. Pitching, defense and 3 run homers. Once Riz lands either Oswalt or Buehrle AND gets his centerfielder/leadoff guy, this team will be lethal. Davey played for Earl and understands the concept. Whare am I wrong?

A: Where are all the 3-run homers coming from?  The Nats were respectable in terms of team Homers last year (7th in the NL) but were below average in most other offensive categories (runs, rbi, BA, OBP, slugging, ops+).  Perhaps if we signed on one of the big mashers (Fielder or Pujols) we’d be guaranteed 30 more homers, but all I see are a bunch of question marks on the offense.  We still have no lead-off hitter, we still have lots of Ks in the lineup.  Is Morse really a 30-homer guy?  Can LaRoche come back and get to his career averages (roughly 24-26 homers per full season)?  Will Werth bounce back to have a 130 OPS+ season?  Boswell says it may happen, but warns against sudden drop-off of pitchers like Buehrle later in their careers.

Q: Tom, So why the hate from MLB for the draft? Was it all a detest of Scott Boras? Some way for the big market teams to slap down the small market teams again? These are really harsh penalties for going “over slot”. There’s got to be something else behind this, right?

A: Because one of the most activist owners (Chicago’s Jerry Reinsdorf) and Selig himself are both small-market, cheapskate mindsets and they wanted to remove the one area of baseball where costs often-times end up being sunken dollars; bonus money for amateur players.  When the big clubs saw that this deal was to their advantage, they piled on and suddenly you had enough owners to push it through.  Boswell says there’s not enough information yet to properly comment.

Q: Will writers take into account Tony LaRussa’s connection to steroids when his name comes up for consideration for the Hall of Fame?

A: I doubt it.  That’s on the players and on the commissioner.  The manager just takes what he gets and tries to win games.  Boswell says that after the 2011 WS win, he doubts anyone will NOT vote for the man.

Q: Can a player’s manager change his behavior and become a disciplinarian with the same group of players?  (In the context of Terry Franconia losing the Red Sox clubhouse).

A:  I don’t believe so.  The best example of some who did though may be Tom Coughlin, who seemingly softened from his hard-liner stance with the Giants years ago and kept his job during one rough patch.  Boswell says not really with the same team, but lots of guys learn from their mistakes and become better coaches later on.